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The History of Craft Beer in Massachusetts

Hey there, beer lover! You’ve decided it’s time to become a craft beer connoisseur and taste all the amazing brews Massachusetts has to offer. We’ll be your guide on this hoppy adventure through the Bay State. With over 100 craft breweries and counting, you’ve got your work cut out for you. But don’t worry, we’ll break down what you need to know to make it easy for you to plan a trip to the best bars in western Massachusetts for all your beer needs. From hoppy IPAs to dark stouts and everything in between, you’ll learn to appreciate the nuances that make each brew unique. So come along for the ride as we help you impress your friends with your newfound craft beer knowledge. This is just the beginning of an exciting craft beer journey!

The Top Breweries to Visit in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has been at the forefront of craft brewing since the 1980s. Sam Adams led the way, opening in 1984. Jim Koch used an old family recipe to brew Samuel Adams Boston Lager, helping launch the craft beer movement. Many small breweries followed in Sam Adams’ footsteps, embracing traditional styles and local ingredients.

In the 1990s, breweries experimented with more styles.  Harpoon opened in 1986, specializing in British-style ales and German lagers. Allagash founded in 1995, focusing on Belgian-inspired ales.  As the decade progressed, breweries got more creative with stouts, porters, pilsners, and IPAs.

The 2000s and 2010s saw an explosion of craft breweries.  Pretty Things (now defunct), Jack’s Abby, and Trillium all opened, specializing in traditional European styles.  Night Shift, Lord Hobo, and Lamplighter embraced experimental hops and barrel-aging.  By 2015, Massachusetts had over 100 craft breweries, with more opening each year.

Today, the Massachusetts craft beer scene is world-class.  You can find every style of beer imaginable, from traditional British bitters to pastry stouts with maple syrup and pancake batter.  Many breweries now can and bottle beer for distribution, while others are taproom-only, fostering community.  Whatever your tastes, the Massachusetts craft beer community has something for you.  Cheers!

Tasting Craft Beers: The Basics

Ales and lagers are the two most well-known types of beer. But what exactly separates an ale from a lager?


Ales are made with top-fermenting yeast, meaning the yeast rises to the top of the fermentation tank. This results in a faster fermentation process, usually around 1 to 2 weeks. Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeast that sinks to the bottom of the tank. This requires a longer, cooler fermentation, typically 4 to 8 weeks.


Ales tend to have a fruitier, maltier flavor due to the warmer fermentation. You’ll often taste notes of apricot, plum, or toffee. Lagers are described as “crisper” or “cleaner” because they lack the esters found in ales. Instead, you may notice hints of biscuit or grass.

Color and Appearance

Ales encompass a variety of beer styles and can range from pale gold to deep brown. Lagers are always light-colored, from pale yellow to light amber.

Popular Examples

Popular ale styles are IPAs, stouts, and porters. Well-known lagers include pilsners, bocks, and malt liquors. Some recognizable beer brands are Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (ale) and Heineken (lager).

Whether you prefer the robust, fruity flavors of ale or the crisp, subtle taste of a lager comes down to personal taste. But now you can sip your pint with confidence, knowing exactly what makes the two types of beer so distinct.

Visiting the top craft breweries is one of the best ways to experience Massachusetts’ thriving beer scene. With innovative brews, welcoming taprooms, and passionate brewers, these spots showcase the artistry and community spirit at the heart of craft beer in the Bay State. Cheers!